By Clifford Ndujihe, Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Gbenga Oke
ABUJA—TWO chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and two-time gubernatorial aspirants in Adamawa and Taraba states respectively, Mr. Bala Takaya and Senator Abdullahi Kirim, yesterday, asked an Abuja High Court sitting in Maitama to issue an order stopping former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from contesting the impending presidential primary of the party.
Interestingly, three associates of the former vice president; Ambassador Yahaya Kwande, Hon. Dubem Onyia and Alhaji Lawal Kaita have also filed a suit at an Abuja High Court to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from accepting President Jonathan as a candidate of PDP for the 2011 presidential elections.
The plaintiffs are also asking the court to restrain PDP and its National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, from presenting Jonathan as the party’s candidate for the election.
Meanwhile, January 4, 2011 has been fixed for hearing of the case while the suit filed by the PDP chieftains to stop Alhaji Atiku from contesting is yet to be assigned to a judge.
The duo of Bala Takaya and Senator Abdullahi Kirim are asking the high court to invoke its original jurisdiction and stop Atiku, contending that both the PDP Constitution and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, prohibited people with questionable characters from vying for any elective office in the country.
Money laundering allegation
The plaintiffs specifically asked that the high court should take into cognizance the fact that Atiku was dismissed from the Nigerian Customs Service on account of corruption, adding that findings of the United States of America Senate Permanent Sub_Committee on Investigations/ Committee of Homeland Security and Government Affairs which investigated him on allegation of money laundering and other corrupt practices of some foreign officials in the US, in February 2010, indicted him of corruption.
They argued that his dismissal and the recent indictment by the US were enough grounds to disqualify him since both the nation’s constitution and the PDP constitution forbid anybody with such dirty records from contesting election into elective offices.
Besides, the two aggrieved politicians are also seeking a separate court order compelling the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to probe and verify the various allegations of dishonest practices including alleged receipt of $2million bribe from Siemen AG through his wife.
They urge the court to impose more severe sanctions on him if found guilty of the allegations.
Although the case is yet to be assigned to any judge for hearing, the plaintiffs have, in the interim, filed a motion on notice for an interlocutory injunction restraining the PDP from screening or clearing Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to contest the PDP’s presidential primary.
They are also asking the high court to issue another interlocutory injunction restraining Atiku from presenting himself for screening or clearance for the presidential primary.
In the suit, only the PDP and Atiku Abubakar were named as defendants in the case.
Detailing the reasons why they were involving the court in the bid to stop Atiku from contesting the poll in a 31-point affidavit, they said his emergence as a president in the country would draw the nation backward.
The plaintiffs averred that “between 1969 and 1989, Atiku Abubakar rose to become the Deputy Director of Customs and was dismissed following the findings of a panel of inquiry that recommended his dismissal.
“In February 2010, the USA Senate Permanent Sub_Committee on Investigation Committee of Homeland Security and Government Affairs carried out investigation on the money laundering and other corrupt practices of some foreign officials in the USA in line with the strict moral code and integrity within which that country operates.
“Findings of the said Senate Committee showed clearly that Atiku Abubakar was the source of the over $440m brought into the USA over a period of eight years (2000_2008) through more than 30 accounts. The committee questioned the nature and source of Atiku’s wealth and also found that the allegation by the SEC that Ms Douglas received over $2million in bribe payments from Siemen AG intended part for her husband cannot be dismissed.
“The report showed how Atiku along with his fourth wife, one Ms Jennifer Douglas Abubakar, an American citizen, engaged in acts which have thoroughly embarrassed Nigeria as a country
“That Atiku was invited by the Senate Committee for questioning but that he declined the invitation.
“That since he was invited for questioning by the said US Senate Committee, he has never set his foot in the USA for fear of being arrested and that Atiku Abubakar’s spouse, Jennifer Douglas_Atiku has also relocated to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and hasnot set foot in the USA since she appeared before the US Senate Committee.”
Through a writ of summons filed through the Chambers of A J Obumneme, the plaintiffs asked the court to compel the PDP not to allow Atiku contest the primary until he has been screened and asked questions on all these allegations.
Meanwhile, one of the leaders of the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, Ambassador Yayaha Kwande has said the northern leaders were determined to explore all legal means to stop President Goodluck Jonathan from retaining power.
Kwande spoke as opponents of the NPLF consensus Northern presidential candidate, Alh. Atiku Abubakar, moved to annihilate his political structure and get him sanctioned for maintaining the structure in the PDP.
Kwande said the decision of Abubakar’s associate to seek redress in court had nothing to do with Jonathan as a person but to comply with the rules and constitution of the PDP.
He said: “Some sections of the media are mis_interpreting what the real situation is. The bone of contention is not between the North and President Jonathan. President Goodluck Jonathan is a good man but the fact is that there was an agreement within the North and the South and Jonathan is caught in between because he wants to scuttle an agreement that has been reached by gentlemen of the PDP.
He is not doing well for us and since he is the president in power, there is no way anybody can strike him out of the way other than to go to court and to have a good interpretation of what is in the constitution of Nigeria and the PDP constitution of which all of us belong to.
“President Jonathan belongs to the PDP and we also belong to the PDP. If there is a rule made by the PDP itself, then all of us should comply and abide by the rule. But Jonathan said ‘no,’ he is the president, so he will contest by all means.
That is why we seek redress in court because we do not want this to end in violence and that is why some of us that are card-carrying members of the PDP from the North proceeded to the court to have a proper interpretation instead of allowing the country to go into turmoil.”
Denying reports that they might quit the PDP, he said: “It is a democracy and if a particular decision is not favouring you, you move out. But I believe it is not going to be so. Nigeria is a beautiful place. We talk too much but we usually resolve our differences, so there wouldn’t be anything like mass movement out of the PDP.”
Atiku faces hurdles
Like he did in 2007 before emerging as a presidential candidate, Abubakar has more hurdles to scale this time, if he is to fly the flag of the PDP at the 2011 polls.
Apart from the 10-day ultimatum issued by some stakeholders to the PDP hierarchy to disqualify Abubakar from the presidential primaries, there are plots to get him punished for not dismantling his political structure – the Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM as ordered by the party in 1999.
Said a source: “Atiku is not qualified to be a member of the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the PDP because he has not dissolved the PDM, which is against the PDP resolution that all politicians should dissolve their political associations and fuse into the PDP.
“The resolution was taken after former President Olusegun Obasanjo defeated Dr. Alex Ekwueme in Jos primaries in 1999. Ekwueme was the only person who dissolved and dissociated himself from his political association – the Pan-Ndigbo Foundation, PFN.
Atiku refused to dissolve his PDM and carried it into the Action Congress, AC. Now, he has carried it back into the PDP. He has flouted the PDP resolution by not dissolving the PDM. They must be made to be loyal to the party.”